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  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

    Director: Gareth Edwards

    Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen & Forest Whitaker

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    During a time of ruthless Imperial rule, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finds an unlikely band of heroes headed by the daring Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything) and rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, The Terminal) as they plot to steal the coveted plans to the Empire’s most destructive weapon, the Death Star.  Ben Mendelsohn (Una), Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange), Alan Tudyk (Frozen), Jiang Wen (The Sun Also Rises) and Forest Whitaker (Arrival) costar.

    Marking the first of many planned stand-alone films in the popular sci-fi saga, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers an action-packed and emotionally riveting tale based on a crucial footnote, often referred to but never explored in the film universe on such a profound scale.  Following the murder of her mother and capturing of her scientist father (Mikkelsen) fifteen years ago, Jyn Erso, resorting to petty theft and anything else to survive in the war-ravaged world the Empire has fashioned, is rescued from incarceration by rebels with an imperative message from her thought to be dead father, Galen Erso.  Using his brilliance to design the Empire’s most invaluable weapon for total domination, Galen alerts Jyn of the Death Star’s near completion and its sole vulnerability.  Aided by rebel officer Cassian Andor and the series’ most hilariously blunt droid to date, K-2SO (Tudyk), to retrieve the elder Erso in an effort to assist the Alliance, Jyn must scour distant and dangerous worlds, confront old foes and ensure the plans to the Death Star are captured in a mission built entirely on hope and outnumbered by the odds.  

    A far riskier endeavor than its previous Episode-connected installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story forges on with an adventure, visually and thematically, engrained in the spirit of Lucas’ franchise-starting wave of films.  Grittier and focusing on a new breed of unlikely and richly diverse heroes that come together to aid Jyn’s deathly mission, the prequel to A New Hope flourishes with stunning visual effects and a groundbreaking achievement that resurrects the deceased Peter Cushing’s likeness to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin.  As strong and appealing as these new rebels including, the determined Jyn and blind Force believer Chirrut Îmwe (Yen) are individually, their chemistry as a unit lacks and is a far cry from the charming connections seen between the stars of George Lucas’ original trilogy.  While character development issues, also present in his 2014 Godzilla reboot are repeated here, Director Gareth Edwards handles the wealth of the narrative with a steady hand and an obvious appreciation for the detailed universe.  Complimented by a distinct yet familiar score by Michael Giacchino (Tomorrowland, Doctor Strange) that seamlessly taps into John Williams’ beloved themes and featuring the most viciously exciting appearance by Darth Vader on film yet, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, although leading to an unavoidably predictable finale, is a thrilling journey into the galaxy’s past that stands strongly on its own merits.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Immaculately handled, the digital photography detailing the various planet landscapes and colder color textures seen early in the film make for a flawlessly crisp picture.  Furthermore, skin tones are naturally preserved with the deepest of black levels observed during high-flying space battles, death trooper armor and of course, Darth Vader’s iconic garb.  A picturesque high-definition experience on all fronts, the Force is triumphantly strong with this transfer.  Equipped with a fittingly perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that delivers dialogue with the swiftest of precision, Michael Giacchino’s swelling score boldly supports the spectacular visuals while, the whizzing sounds of TIE fighters, X-wings and explosive laser blasts all make reference-worthy statements on the track.

    Respectably stocked and presented on a separate disc, supplements found under The Stories banner include, A Rogue Idea (9:00) that finds ILM’s John Knoll discussing how he came up with the film’s concept that would ultimately launch the Star Wars stand-alone projects, Jyn: The Rebel (6:16) explores the lead character’s traits and backstory with insight from Actress Felicity Jones, Cassian: The Spy (4:14) hosts Actor Diego Luna as he discusses Cassian’s own complexities being a hero against immeasurable odds, K-2SO: The Droid (7:43) details the technical process bringing the droid to life through Alan Tudyk’s performance, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills (6:20) digs deeper into the characters’ backstories and the Chinese superstars playing them, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary (8:35) finds Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflecting on their very unique roles as an extremist rebel leader and Imperial pilot gone rogue while, The Empire (8:18) gives a revealing look into the film’s antagonists, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One (8:24) explores the production’s challenge with making a film that could visually fit into the realm of the original trilogy’s appearance, The Princess & The Governor (5:49) sheds light on the impressive movie magic that brought a younger Princess Leia and Governor Tarkin back to the big-screen and Epilogue: The Story Continues (4:15) finds the filmmakers and cast reflecting on the experience with footage from the film’s world premiere included.  In addition, Rogue Connections (4:31) points out all the Easter eggs and references to other films in the Star Wars universe found in the film with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code concluding the bonus feature offerings.

    Following up on the momentum of The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story successfully charts a new course in a universe of stand-alone features that overwhelmingly soars on its first flight.  Minor character development hiccups aside, the prequel invites viewers back to a familiar world, this time told via strangers eyes, who win the affections of its audience through compelling performances and mesmerizing visual effects.  While its ultimate destination may be easily foreseen, the journey and near-impossible mission at hand is as exciting as one could hope for from a new chapter in the Star Wars universe.  Unsurprisingly, Disney’s high-definition presentation is a lavish-looking, reference worthy example of excellence with a serviceable amount of supplements bested only by its own Target exclusive release containing additional on-disc content and a 3D presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 4th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two reconvenes with the crew of the Ghost as they continue their pursuit for freedom under the rule of the Galactic Empire.  As young Ezra continues his own Jedi training under the disciplined Kanan, the rebels find themselves increasingly targeted by new threats from the dark side causing them to forge alliances with others on their journeys.

    Rustling the feathers of the feared Galactic Empire, Darth Vader, aided by fellow Inquisitors, make the capture of the Ghost crew a priority in this action-packed sophomore season of Star Wars Rebels.  With risks increasing and danger constant, the combative freedom fighters join forces with former clone trooper Captain Rex, much to the discontent of Kanan whose reminders of the doomed Clone Wars are far too fresh to initially trust Rex.  Establishing unlikely friendships and trusted alliances with those fighting mutual causes, the Ghost crew’s missions to aid those suffering around the galaxy is met with lethal force from a double threat of new Inquisitors (voiced by Philip Anthony-Rodriguez and Sarah Michelle Gellar respectively).  Richly conceived and crafting even stronger character developments, the second season of Star Wars Rebels finds common themes of teamwork and resisting responsibility central to the proceedings as Ezra’s continued Jedi education and conflicted emotions inch the character forward on his journey of self-discovery.  With appearances from fan-favorite characters including, Ahsoka Tano (who becomes a crucial ally to the rebels), Emperor Palpatine and Princess Leia who the crew aids on a secret mission, Star Wars Rebels continues the turbulent trials of the Ghost when Zeb must work with the evil Agent Kallus in order for both to survive a hostile planet while, the spunky Chopper takes kindly to an Imperial droid during a location scout for a new rebel base.  Unquestionably more intense than its debut season, Star Wars Rebels ups the ante with an epic conclusion involving Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka discovering a living Darth Maul at a sacred temple with the powers of the dark side tempting the young Padawan like never before.  Intensely cinematic, humorous and wildly exciting, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two raises the bar once again with its grandiose storytelling taking our characters into new and potentially darker territories in the future to come.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents all 22 episodes of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  As colorfully crisp as any theatrically released animated feature, Star Wars Rebels delights with flawless black levels and exceptional detail touches in backgrounds, spaceship interiors and uniquely layered costumes.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is well exchanged with the high speed pursuits of spaceships and lightsaber battles adding robust touches to the show’s sound effects.  Special features on Disc 1 include, Rebels Recon (43:31) where Star Wars Correspondent Andi Gutierrez acts as your guide in this 1-6 episode breakdown of the season.  Sneak Peeks at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1:43) are also included.  Next up, Disc 2 continues Rebels Recon (49:09) coverage on episodes 7-14 while, Disc 3 concludes Rebels Recon (37:27) on the season’s remaining episodes.  In addition, Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season 2 (3:30) takes a look at the season’s unique references and hidden easter eggs with the Blu-ray exclusive featurette From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader VS. Ahsoka (6:08) finds Executive Producer Dave Filoni discussing the season’s epic showdown between the former teacher and apprentice.

    An intergalactically epic followup to last year’s explosive debut season, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two exceeds expectations and pushes the quality and emotion of episodic animation within the Star Wars universe.  Continuing to be Disney XD’s strongest and most throughly engaging program, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment weaves the power of the Force with their praiseworthy presentation.  While supplements could surely be more plentiful, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two easily earns a true Jedi’s recommendation.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 30th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Elstree 1976 (2015) DVD Review

    Elstree 1976 (2015)

    Director: Jon Spira

    Starring: Various

    Released by: MVD Visual

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the lives of those behind the countless masks and helmets of George Lucas’ original sci-fi phenomenon, Elstree 1976 centers on the diverse personalities of the bit actors and extras that would ultimately comprise the film’s vast galaxy and how their lives have since been affected being apart of its global impact.  

    Spearheaded through a Kickstarter campaign, Director Jon Spira’s (Anyone Can Play Guitar) love letter to the unsung beings that donned heavy makeup and increasingly difficult to see through headwear in the original Star Wars are interviewed to divulge their unique tales landing fleeting yet, generally memorable roles in arguably the greatest blockbuster of all-time.  With many barely grasping the scope of what they were associated with at the time, Elstree 1976 allows each subject to reveal their early beginnings, long before the acting bug took hold.  Emerging from all walks of life across North America and overseas, the selection of interviewees spend considerable time sharing personal childhood memories and their earliest ambitions, providing a deeply rich portrait of each speaker.  Surprisingly, the film’s non-Star Wars related moments prove to be the most engaging as each subject’s candidness makes them solidly grounded and sympathetically relatable.  Featuring David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) as the more prominent talking heads of the documentary, Elstree 1976’s other participants including, Derek Lyons (Temple Guard / Medal Bearer), Angus Maclnnes (Gold Leader) and John Chapman (Drifter), although loquacious in their interviews, have such “blink and you’ll miss them” appearances in the original film that their insight grows tiresome quickly.  

    With many of the participants no longer in the business, Elstree 1976 winds down with an interesting overview of the thriving Star Wars conventions that many of the film’s costumed players attend for financial means.  The interviewees discuss at great length the politics of their appearances and what they consider in bad taste when other unsung extras join the circuit to make a quick buck themselves.  No matter how minuscule their roles may have been, the subjects of Elstree 1976 hold warm memories of their once in a lifetime experiences onset yet, the overwhelming majority of the interviews related to Star Wars are never deeply interesting with the documentary suffering as it drags itself to a conclusion.  A well-intentioned salute to the background players that comprised both sides of the Force, Elstree 1976 is hardly a definitive document on Lucas’ runaway hit but, contains several worthy interviews that Star Wars devotees will find of interest.

    Shot digitally, Elstree 1976 is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that appears as acceptable as can be.  Restrained to tight closeup style interviews, colors are presented adequately while, film clips from several films and onsite footage from autograph conventions also appear with ease.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the controlled settings of each interview allows for perfectly audible dialogue levels to be captured.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.  Unfortunately, no special features have been included.

    Earning the adoration of fans worldwide for their brief but, endearing appearances, Elstree 1976’s willingness to shine an honorary light on Star Wars’ many costumed characters and the men and women behind those faces is a gracious notion yet, one that stumbles with one too many monotonous asides.  While the film’s earliest moments prove most interesting, only dedicated fans of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga will take interest.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from MVD Visual, Elstree 1976 can be purchased via MVDShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

    Director: J.J. Abrams

    Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew & Max Von Sydow

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finds the galaxy confronted with a new threat in the form of the First Order.  When a rebellious young heroes are caught in the crosshairs of the galactic war, resistance fighters from the past aid them in their battle against the dark side.  Featuring franchise veterans and impressive up and comers, J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Stark Trek) directs the anticipated seventh episode of George Lucas’ enduring saga.

    Cinematically dormant since the concluding chapter of Lucas’ prequel trilogy in 2005, fans worldwide came to the unfortunate realization that further adventures set in a galaxy far, far away were to be left only to the imagination.  A force was truly awoken in 2012 following Disney’s purchase of Lucas’ illustrious company and the Star Wars franchise with the intent of continuing the beloved legacy set forth in 1977.  With scripting duties by its director, franchise favorite Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), Star Wars: The Force Awakens returns viewers to a world not quite seen since the fall of Darth Vader and the destruction of the evil Empire.  Perfectly encapsulating the dirty, lived-in environments we remember while, setting its course on a journey yet unknown, the latest installment finds the galaxy at the mercy of the ruthless Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Girls) and the First Order, both born from the ashes of the Empire.  Following the disappearance of sole Jedi master Luke Skywalker, lonesome scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley, Scrawl) and Finn (John Boyega, Attack the Block), a former stormtrooper gone rogue, team up with war hero Han Solo, Chewbacca and the Resistance to locate Skywalker and restore balance to the Force.  Joined by the accomplished Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) as rebel pilot Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens welcomes back its seasoned cast of original stars including but not limited to, Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Harrison Ford who, after years of resistance returning to his famed role, has an absolute blast as everyone’s favorite smuggler.  Juggling the delicate realms of nostalgia and forward-thinking storytelling, Star Wars: The Force Awakens accomplishes both in spades as familiar faces are integral to its narrative yet, never outshine the new and exciting characters introduced to carry the franchise’s respected torch.  

    Furthermore, Abrams and his talented crew restore the charming practicality of the original trilogies special effects and creature designs while, flawlessly injecting modern techniques such as, motion-capture and CG into its narrative that feels both seamless and visually stunning.  Although detractors have sighted the film’s similar structure to A New Hope as a grave flaw, the reoccurring theme between the light and the dark is ever-present in all Star Wars films and can hardly be viewed as a setback in a film crafted with so much heart and obvious respect for its source.  From its scroll defining intro blessed with John Williams’ iconic score to its thrilling cliffhanger conclusion, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wildly exciting adventure bursting with action, heartbreak and nonstop fun.  Through the power of the Force, Abrams and company have magically transported viewers back to a euphoric state of youth where old friends have gathered to welcome us as we warmly embrace the path of our new heroes.  An absolute return to form for the beloved franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has restored the magic for all generations to marvel.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Impressive from start to finish, skin tones are naturally presented with impeccable detail picking up perspiration caused on Jakku and Poe’s blood-spattered face.  In addition, the film’s unique environments from desolate desert landscapes to the lush greenery of Maz Kanata’s planet leap off the screen while, the delicacies of shadowy sequences, prominently seen in the film’s opening battle, are handled beautifully.  Meanwhile, black levels found in the film’s many space battles and Kylo Ren’s costume are brilliantly inky with no disruptions.  A remarkable accomplishment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ transfer is the epitome of perfection.  Equipped with an equally pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is exacting and crisp while, the whizzing noises of high-flying TIE Fighters, X-Wings and of course, the Millennium Falcon make thunderous impressions on your speakers.  In addition, explosions, laser blasts and the thrashing of lightsabers provide ample activity in their respective scenes with the mix only enriching their impact.  Presented on their own Blu-ray disc, special features include, Secrets of the Force: A Cinematic Journey (1:09:14), a four-part overview of the making of The Force Awakens from pre-production to its completion with interviews from cast and crew, The Story Awakens: The Table Read (4:01) finds the cast reflecting on the first group reading of the script with footage from the actual day, Crafting Creatures (9:34) showcases how the various creatures were brought to life using a multitude of different techniques, Building BB-8 (6:03) documents the complicated process of realizing the franchise’s favorite new droid, Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (7:02) explores the making of the film’s climactic lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren while, ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force (7:55) dives into the film’s magnificent digital effects work.  In addition, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (6:51) spotlights the iconic composer as he reflects on his enduring involvement with the Star Wars saga, six Deleted Scenes (4:15) of trivial value and Force For Change (3:22) exploring the series’ humanitarian initiative across the globe round out the healthy assortment of bonus features.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    A marvelous journey back to a familiar world plagued with new dangers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens sends viewers on an exhilarating ride that reignites a 30 year old magic like never before.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment awards the box-office juggernaut with pitch perfect technical grades and an equally pleasing spread of bonus content which, although not entirely definitive and sure to be expanded in future rereleases, still offer tons of enjoyment.  Easily the standout feature of last year and a shoe-in for one of this year’s most impressive home video releases, Star Wars: The Force Awakens achieves our highest recommendation!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 5th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015) DVD Review

    Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)

    Director(s): Michael Hegner & Martin Skov

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the pint-sized adventures of the galaxy’s finest heroes, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is the exciting five-part mini-series centered around C-3PO and R2-D2’s many exploits.  As the gold protocol droid retells their tales to various listeners, his faithful companion is abducted by a mysterious figure prompting him to save his short, spunky friend.

    Taking place after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales finds the celebrating rebels gathering together as their dependable droids C-3PO and R2-D2 recall their many adventures dating back to the Clone Wars.  Voiced once more by Anthony Daniels, C-3PO engages listeners with the events unfolded in the prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones before R2-D2 is stolen away by a hooded figure.  Struggling with his own fears, the timid droid pursues the mysterious individual in order to reclaim his closest friend while, continuing to tell more of their many escapades to anyone who will listen.  Chocked full of hilarious commentaries on the films and never shying from flinging Jar Jar Binks into space for laughs, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales coasts too closely to events fans have long been accustomed to, making unique storytelling opportunities limited.  Fortunately, an early encounter with Kanan and the Ghost crew of Star Wars Rebels makes for some of the series’ finest moments while, the final episode leading C-3PO to the planet of Geonosis and a confrontation with General Veers makes for a fun sendoff to a mini-series that may lack originality but excels as usual with comedy and delightful animation.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales digitally mastered in widescreen, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although not nearly as sharp or defined as high-definition, colors are plentiful and pop nicely while, black levels are quite respectable and lack any intrusions of crush.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally clear but may require increases in volume to capture their full extent.  Furthermore, Composer John Williams’ original music, along with his iconic reused themes, offer sizable boosts to the track’s limited capabilities.  Although scant, special features include Sneak Peeks (5:00) at Star Wars Rebels, Zootopia and Disney Movie Rewards.  In addition, an Exclusive Trading Card Set is included inside the packaging.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

    presents

    THE 2015 HOLIDAY GIFT

    • The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition: While the tikes of today rightly associate the artistry of stop-motion animation with the works of Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) and Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman), The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition presents viewers of all ages with timeless holiday entertainment from the influential Rankin/Bass Productions.  With such Christmas cartoon classics as UPA’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns, this must-have collection also includes Rankin/Bass’ most beloved holiday-themed specials including, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  Joined by additional special features such as sing-alongs and how-to tutorials on drawing your own Rudolph or Frosty, The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition comes highly recommended and will undoubtedly enjoy heavy rotation by viewers this holiday season.  Available now!

    • Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Celebrating its unbelievable 25th anniversary, the original John Hughes produced classic returns to Blu-ray boasting a new superior-looking 4K restoration.  Collected in a paint can familiar to fans of the films, this excellently timed collector’s edition includes other treats such as, a collectible ornament, rubber spider, Battle Plan reproduction and a Wanted poster looking for the Wet Bandits.  While its equally beloved sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is also included on Blu-ray, purists will be slightly disappointed that later installments, Home Alone 3, Home Alone: Taking Back the House and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist arrive only on DVD.  Although the lack of a complete high-definition collection is unfortunate, the original film’s highly improved transfer and conversation starting packaging makes Home Alone’s 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition well worth upgrading this Christmas.  Available now! 

    • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Similar to Home Alone’s previous outings on high-definition, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has been the victim of dated masters leaving viewers with more to be visually desired.  Thankfully, Warner Bros. have heard fans’ calls and appropriately rescanned this Chevy Chase favorite in 2K from a brand-new interpositive.  Boasting a more filmic appearance and stronger skin tones, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, carrying all previous supplements from its past releases, finally arrives in the presentation fans of the Griswolds rightfully deserve.  Available now!

    • Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy: Marking Marty and Doc’s infamous journey into the distant future of 2015, Universal Studios proudly celebrates the occasion with an exceptional high-definition repackaging of the historic time traveling trilogy.  With all three films looking and sounding stellar, the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy comes overwhelmingly packed with vintage supplements as well as other goodies including, Doc Brown Saves the World! with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doctor Emmett Brown in this newly-produced short film.  In addition, diehard fans will be overjoyed with Universal Studios’ alternate limited edition release of Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures.  Housed in a light-up faux flux capacitor, this must-have set contains the film trilogy, a 64-page collectible booklet and all 26 episodes of the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon on DVD for the first time ever.  Hailed as one of the greatest franchises of all time, Christmas morning won’t be complete without journeying into the past with these ageless adventures.  Available now!

     

    • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Continuing the popular exploits of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) returns to the explosive franchise for his most dangerous mission yet.  When the IMF is shut down by the CIA, a dangerous network known as the Syndicate, comprised of former agents gone rogue, threatens the safety of the globe.  Wanted by their own government, Ethan and his loyal team, along with a mysterious double agent (Rebecca Ferguson, Hercules), must combine their limited efforts to bring the Syndicate down and restore their names.  Helmed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher), Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation combines death-deifying stunts, intense action and a suspenseful narrative that stands proudly with Ghost Protocol’s universally hailed installment.  Arriving with reference worthy high-definition specs and countless special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Christopher McQuarrie and Star Tom Cruise plus, several making-of featurettes, the fifth installment of Cruise’s exciting series is a mission all viewers should choose to accept this holiday season.  Available December 15th!

     

    • The Purple Rose of Cairo: Limited to just 3,000 units, Writer/Director Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Manhattan) love letter to cinema is an achingly moving achievement comprised of magic and romance.  Perfectly casted, Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) star in this Great Depression-set tale about a movie obsessed dreamer enchanted by the arrival of her movie star crush who leaps off the screen to woo her.  A bonafide gem in Allen’s rich catalog of classics, The Purple Rose of Cairo casts an enchanting spell on viewers while, Film Historian Julie Kirgo’s enthralling liner notes increase ones appreciation for the content.  Available now!

    • The End of the Tour: Based on David Lipsky’s best-seller, this probing character study of Lipsky’s journalistic road-trip interviewing Author David Foster Wallace in the wake of his successful novel is one of the year’s smartest and genuine features.  Jason Segel (The Muppets) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) are excellently matched as two intelligent creatives, butting heads as they explore fame and the desire for normalcy on a journey of unexpected friendship and understanding.  Humorous and heartbreaking, this indie favorite arrives with an Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, a Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman and more.  Critically applauded, The End of the Tour is a moving piece of drama well worth taking the journey with.  Available now! 

    • Inside Out 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition: From the creative minds of Pixar, Inside Out marks their most unique tale to date centering on the many emotions of an 11-year-old girl as she copes with her unexpected move to San Francisco.  Starring an eclectically hilarious voice cast including, Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Phyllis Smith (The Office), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Lewis Black (The Daily Show) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Director Pete Docter’s (Monsters Inc., Up) deeply personal exploration of the mind is endlessly charming with audiences young and old finding themselves profoundly moved by its  conclusion.  Presented with immersive 3D and countless bonus features, Inside Out is the animated gem of the year perfect for acquisition this holiday season.  Available now!

     

    • Aladdin Diamond Edition: Highly anticipated and finally unleashed from the Disney vault, Aladdin makes its domestic high-definition debut with jaw-droppingly colorful clarity and countless special features including, the desirable and never-before-seen Genie outtakes performed by the late Robin Williams.  A magical tour de force, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved features and a wish come true for all street rats and riff raffs this Christmas.  Available now!   

    • Minions 3D: In Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me prequel, the yellow colored tribe find themselves deeply depressed following the accidental losses of their last several evil leaders.  Set in the progressive 1960s and determined to find their next kingpin, optimistic Minion Kevin, along with Stuart and Bob, road trip to Villain Con International to join forces with evil diva Scarlett Overkill.  After traveling to England to overthrow the Queen, the Minions must devise a way to correct their deeds in order to save their fellow friends and the world.  Accompanied by vocal work from Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael Keaton (Toy Story 3) and Geoffrey Rush (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Minions slapstick scenarios and soundtrack of rockin’ hits from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix make for a thoroughly entertaining ride.  Packed with eye-popping 3D and three brand-new mini movies, Minions is the animated release making audiences go bananas.  Available December 8th! 

    • Cinderella: Continuing their successful string of live-action features based on their esteemed animated classics, Disney brings the whimsy of Cinderella to a new generation.  Bursting with magic and elegance, Director Kenneth Branagh’s (Hamlet, Thor) modernization pays homage while, surpassing its 1950 counterpart with its grandiose production design and exceptional performances from Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the titular role and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as her wicked stepmother.  One of the finest films of the year, Disney’s Cinderella is the glass slipper that should be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year.  Available now!

    • 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition: Although unhappy with the film’s visual outcome, Walt Disney’s dazzling London-based tale has long been cherished by adoring audiences since its debut in 1961.  Stylistically unique to the delicate precision of other Disney efforts, 101 Dalmatians offers an adventurous tale accompanied by memorable songs and one of Disney’s most beloved antagonists Cruella De Vil.  Shining brighter than ever on Blu-ray, reasons for scooping up 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition this season far exceeds the number of its lovable polka-dotted puppies.  Available now! 

    • Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection: A quarter century since its debut, Rowan Atkinson’s hilariously dimwitted character returns with all 14 episodes of his memorable television show.  Presented by Fabulous Films, in association with Shout! Factory, Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection provides viewers with suitable supplemental content while, the sheer silliness and physical hijinks of Atkinson’s predominately mum character in all his timeless sketches will most definitely tickle the funny bones of all viewers.  Available now! 

    • Star Wars Rebels - Complete Season One: With less than a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes hold of audiences worldwide, Disney’s first attempts at reestablishing the brand ensures that the Force is in very capable hands.  Taking place before the events of the original film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a ragtag crew of do-gooders determined to take down the Galactic Empire.  With guest appearances from Star Wars alumni such as, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Yoda, this computer-generated Disney XD series packs high-octane action and exciting new characters that have quickly become fan favorites.  With season two airing now, catching up with the crew of the Ghost in their first 15 adventures is the perfect training for young Padawans and Jedi Masters alike.  Available now! 

    • Manimal - The Complete Series: Airing for only a short-lived eight episodes, Fabulous Films and Shout! Factory welcome the animalistic adventures of Manimal: The Complete Series to DVD for the first time ever in the U.S.!  Centering on the wealthy and dashing Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale, Jaws 3-D), Manimal finds Chase using his abilities to morph into any animal of his choosing to aid the authorities in solving crimes.  Scheduled against the soap opera titan Dallas, Manimal found itself quickly extinct due to low ratings but, has maintained a cult appeal for its over the top premise and impressive transformation sequences.  Wickedly fun, Manimal: The Complete Series also arrives with an interview with Series Creator Co-Creator Glen A. Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I.), Concept & Production Notes, an episode booklet and more.  With Will Ferrel (Elf) and Adam McKay (Step Brothers) actively developing a film version, reliving its goofy originator this holiday season will serve as an ideal journey down memory lane.  Available now!

    • Automan - The Complete Series: From the creative minds behind Tron and Knight Rider, Automan unashamedly melds the two contrasting concepts for this long lost gem of Generation X.  Including all 13 episodes and countless bonus content including, an all-new 42 minute retrospective, Automan centers on computer nerd Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnez Jr., House of the Long Shadows) as he minds his desk work at the local police department.  Using his programming skills, Walter develops an artificial hologram that can exist in the real world.  Accompanied by the computer engineered Automan and a small droid, Walter hits the streets to battle crime.  Cancelled prematurely, Automan: The Complete Series is a sci-fi spectacle of 80s technology and street crime that has thankfully resurfaced in its entirety for the first time in America.  Available now!

    • Agent Carter - The Complete First Season: Reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell stars as secret agent Peggy Carter as she attempts to cope with the loss of Steve Rogers and juggle her position in the male-dominated workforce of the 1940s.  After learning her friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has been framed for supplying weapons to the enemy, Agent Carter must fight to clear his name and recover the stolen goods.  Delivering one of television’s stronger and well-written female characters, Marvel’s Agent Carter is an engaging, tightly paced mini-series that  fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will find themselves instantly hooked on.  Available now!

    • Blood and Lace: Long desired and finally available for the first time on home video, Blood and Lace serves as a bizarre precursor to what would become the slasher boom of the late 70s and early 80s.  Following the grizzly murder of her prostituting mother, Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is placed in an orphanage, fearful that she will become the next target of her mother’s hammer-wielding assailant.  With orphanage head Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, It’s a Wonderful Life) and her seedy handyman concealing their share of disturbing secrets, Ellie’s safety becomes even more uncertain.  Filled with an uncomfortable atmosphere and a disturbing twist ending, Blood and Lace is joined by an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an alternate opening title, its theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.  In a year of seemingly endless titles from Scream Factory, Blood and Lace stands out as one of their most coveted.  Available now! 

    • The Car: Powered by high-octane evil, this cult classic from Director Elliot Silverstein (Nightmare Honeymoon) stars James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) as a newly appointed sheriff in a desert town disturbed by a devilish automobile hellbent on destroying anyone in its path.  Joined by new interviews with its director and Actors Melody Thomas Scott and Geraldine Keams, a theatrical trailer, a newly designed cover art by Scream Factory favorite Justin Osbourn and more, The Car races to Blu-ray just in time for viewers to hitch a ride this Christmas.  Available December 15th! 

    • Eaten Alive: Continuing to impress domestic audiences with their diverse output, Arrow Video delivers another first-rate effort with Tobe Hooper’s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Eaten Alive.  Set in the Louisiana wetlands at the seedy Starlight Hotel, owner Judd’s (Neville Brand, The Police Connection) homicidal tendencies run amuck as he feeds unsuspecting guests to his hungry alligator.  Bloody and bizarre, Hooper’s underrated gem arrives restored in 2K from the OCN while, bonus content runs deep with endless featurettes and an impressive 22-page booklet.  As if anymore bait were needed to lure viewers, Eaten Alive is one of the exploitation genres top releases of the year.  Available now!

    • Ghost Story: Based on the novel by Peter Straub, four elderly friends are haunted by a ghostly apparition in their wintry New England town.  Headlined by seasoned icons including, Fred Astaire (Swing Time), Melvyn Douglas (Ninotchka), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Little Caesar) and John Houseman (Rollerball), Ghost Story oozes atmosphere and supernatural tension.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory delivers this perfectly timed release with a filmic presentation and a slew of special features from an Audio Commentary with Director John Irvin and new interviews with key cast and crew to vintage trailers and a spooky reversible cover art.  Chilling and stylistically paced, Ghost Story makes for a frightening addition into your horror library this winter season.  Available now!

    • Goodnight Mommy: Hailing from Austria, twin brothers Elias and Lukas are troubled when their mother returns home from surgery, heavily bandaged and acting differently.  Growing more unconvinced of the woman who claims to be their mother, the twins take drastic measures to uncover the terrifying truth.  Similar to an unnerving fever dream, Goodnight Mommy seeps under viewers’ skin with an unsettling tone and an even more frightening finale.  Accompanied with a conversational interview with Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a shocking slice of foreign cinema that easily stands as one of the year’s standout contemporary horror releases.  Available now!

    • White of the Eye: All is not as it seems in 1987’s White of the Eye when an attractive woman falls victims to a demented killer of housewives who uses Indian rituals in his murders.  Helmed by Donald Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed) and starring David Keith (Firestarter) and Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), this suspenseful thriller will keep viewers’ blood thoroughly chilled.  Repurposing U.K. distributor Arrow Video’s superb transfer, Scream Factory compliments its release with an Audio Commentary with Director Donald Cammell and Biographer Sam Umland, deleted scenes, an interview with Actor Alan Rosenberg, reversible cover art and more.  Available now!

    • Society: Nightmarish and bold, Brian Yuzna’s (Bride of Re-Animator) directorial debut arrives in a definitive high-definition release from Arrow Video.  Suspecting his wealth family and privileged peers are hiding sinister secrets, paranoid teen Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Days of Our Lives) uncovers a twisted subculture for the richies of Beverly Hills.  Sporting a virtually flawless presentation bursting with bold colors and exceptional clarity, Society comes dripping with newly crafted bonus content that leaves no stone left unturned.  Although its original flesh-covered packaging edition has since sold out, Arrow Video’s standard release of Society is unquestionably one of the best horror releases of 2015!  Available now!

    • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman: Celebrating its 75th anniversary, J.B. Kaufman’s definitive overview of Walt Disney’s animated followup to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a marvel to behold.  Containing over 200 pieces of art and culled from various interviews and recorded conferences, Kaufman’s expertly researched achievement is the finest of its kind and stands as our book of the year!  Available now! 

    • Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk: Complimenting the 30th anniversary re-release of the famed trilogy, Klastorin and Atamniuk’s literary companion is a treasure trove for dedicated fans.  Packed with overwhelming insight into each film’s extensive shooting schedule and incredible imagery of production art, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History also treats readers to several removable posters and reproduction pieces.  Further documenting Back to the Future’s short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and their exciting attraction at Universal Studios’ theme parks, Klastorin and Atamaniuk’s passion project is essential reading for all Back to the Future devotees.  Available now!

    • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt: Highlighting the eternally youthful enthusiasm of Writer/Director John Hughes, Honeycutt’s career spanning work contains interviews with Hughes collaborators including, Matthew Broderick (Ferris Buller’s Day Off), Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and more.  Providing insight into Hughes’ family life and heartwarming friendship with the late John Candy, Honeycutt’s humanizing and photograph-filled coverage of Hughes is one you won’t soon forget.  Available now!

    • The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie by Jerry Schmitz: Making their cinematic return this year, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang comes alive in their first CG-animated 3D feature.  Adapting the simplistic yet, treasured designs and wit of Schulz’s beloved creations was no easy task as covered in Schmitz’s enthralling read.  With a foreword by Director Steve Martino, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie describes the painstaking detail in bringing Charlie Brown and friends into a 3D realm while, cracking a story that would faithfully honor their 50-plus year legacy.  Unquestionably one of the year’s best making-of books, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is an invaluable resource for one of the year’s finest films.  Available now!

    • Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films by Douglas Brode: Chronologically ordered, Brode’s historical journey through science-fiction’s latest and greatest cinematic achievements are compiled in one passionate collection.  From 1927’s influential Metropolis to the many gems consisting of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion wizardry, Brode’s analysis also awards George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Pixar’s Wall-E and Marvel Studio’s most recent Guardians of the Galaxy as sci-fi’s most remarkable efforts.  Accompanied with rare photographs, ratings and background information on each production, Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films will make a suitable stocking-stuffer for all sci-fi fans.  Available now!

    • Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury: Considered one of our favorite films of the year, Mark Salisbury’s stunning look into Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance is breathtaking.  With inspired production art and intriguing character bios, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness also explores the practical and digital means in bringing the film’s ghostly creations to life.  With several takeaway items including, a miniature film poster, Salisbury’s guide to one of the year’s most eerily seductive films is an exceptional entryway into del Toro’s fantastical imagination.  Available now!

    • Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke: As Walt Disney looked beyond the success of his short films to the future of animated features, the educational efforts to perfect his artists’ abilities were increased.  Dormant for nearly 80 years, Hahn and Miller-Zarneke’s latest effort resurrects the countless lectures and transcribed classes Disney’s artists were educated in leading up to the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Animation enthusiasts will be fascinated by its indispensable lessons and extraordinary artwork making it one of Disney Editions’ most outstanding gems of the year.  Available now!

    • Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One with Commentary by Gary Gerani and Robert V. Conte: Serving as a bonafide nostalgia trip, Abrams Comicarts compiles all five collectible sets and stickers of Topps’ original Star Wars trading cards.  Presented in their entirety, first generation fans will be delighted to own the entire run in this wonderfully presented hardcover.  With welcome commentary from original cards editor Gary Gerani and four bonus trading cards included, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One will return fans back to a childhood from a galaxy far, far away.  Available now!

    • Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace: Akin to Harper Design’s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, Insight Editions’ 30 year overview of the Ghostbusters franchise is a rewarding read that traces the pop culture phenomenon of the original two films, their animated television shows plus, the endless merchandise that exploded in their wake.  With interviews from key talent and filled with behind-the-scenes photos and other specialty items, bustin’ will make you feel good after reading Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual HistoryAvailable now!

     

     

  • Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles DVD Review

    Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles

    Director: Michael Hegner

    Starring: Eric Bauza, Michael Dangerfield, Anthony Daniels, Trevor Devall, Heather Doerksen & Tom Kane

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the Lego-centric adventures of a galaxy far, far away, Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles finds young Luke Skywalker carelessly pitting his friends into the clutches of the Empire.  In order to strengthen Luke’s training, Master Yoda and the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi unearth the Holocrons which possess the secrets of the Jedi.  With the Dark Side not far behind, Darth Vader seeks to claim them.  Assisted by superclone Jek-14 and Luke’s faithful friends, the Rebels will stop at nothing to outwit the Empire.

    Following the prequel set episodes of its first season, the newly titled Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles takes place during the Galactic Empire welcoming Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and other memorable characters from George Lucas’ original trilogy into the fold.  Unproven in his abilities, Luke Skywalker and his friends narrowly escape certain doom signaling Yoda and the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi to strengthen Luke’s Jedi training.  With the previously hidden Holocrons withholding the secrets of the Jedi now unearthed to guide Luke, Darth Vader and his endless troops make their retrieval a top priority.  Traveling to the familiar locales of Tatooine and Hoth, Luke, Han, Leia and their loyal droids are assisted by superclone Jek-14 to ensure the Empire never possess the sacred Holocrons.  With exciting battle sequences and its tongue firmly planted in cheek, Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles provides viewers with an engaging four episode saga pitting Skywalker’s from both sides of the Force on a quest for a desired MacGuffin.

    Charmingly animated in the style of beloved Lego blocks and a jovial sense of humor allowing itself to poke fun at Star Wars fandom, the sophomore season surpasses its predecessor in story and laughs.  While the entire four episode season is accounted for, viewers will be disappointed with the lack of the program’s third episode, “Attack of the Jedi”, also noticeably absent in season one’s home video release.  Based in the prequel era and hardly disrupting the continuity of season two’s episodes, the disappearance of “Attack of the Jedi” still stings for fans longing to own the complete series.  Technicalities aside, Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles remains a comically crafted effort that young Padawans will appreciate most.

    Digitally Mastered and preserving its 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles packs bold colors and impressive detail in textures as well as the reflective surfaces of its droid characters.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is always crisp while Composer John Williams’ thrilling music and the show’s wide variety of sound effects never disappointing.  Special features include, an Alternate Ending: “Clash of the Skywalkers” (1:50) and Sneak Peeks (3:37) at upcoming home video releases for Tomorrowland, Aladdin Diamond Edition and Inside Out.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 15th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set before the events of the original 1977 film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a crew, each individually affected by the Galactic Empire, but determined to change things for the better.  Led by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr., Scooby-Doo), the crew befriends Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray, Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures), a teenage con artist with abilities of the Force to aid them in their rebellion against The Inquisitor (Jason Issacs, Peter Pan) and the Empire.  Vanessa Marshall (Young Justice), Steve Blum (Transformers: Rescue Bots) & Tiya Sircar (The Internship) also comprise the vocal talent.  

    Capturing the excitement and thrills of George Lucas’ original saga, Star Wars Rebels finds the galaxy disrupted following the rise of the Empire.  Focusing on the earliest origins of the Rebel Alliance, a crew, led by Kanan Jarrus (Prinze Jr.), does what they can to disrupt any further damage committed by the Empire.  Circulating the galaxy aboard their starship known as the Ghost, Kanan, along with Hera (Marshall), Zeb (Blum), Sabine (Sircar) and their spunky droid Chopper, crosses paths with the orphaned Ezra Bridger (Gray) struggling to survive, before welcoming him into their motley crew.  Stealing from the Empire in order to aid civilians, the low-profile crew quickly find themselves targeted by The Inquisitor (Issacs), a soulless henchmen of the Empire tasked with hunting surviving Jedi’s.  Conflicted with keeping his Jedi status a secret while training Ezra in the ways of the Force, Kanan must confront his destiny in order to restore balance to the galaxy.  

    With iconic characters including, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2, Yoda and Lando Calrissian making guest appearances, Star Wars Rebels propels Disney’s first tackling of the franchise into a hyperspace of adventure and nonstop action.  Highlighting a period of the saga never cinematically seen before, the debut season delights viewers with topnotch CG animation and well crafted tales that develop characters of continuously growing appeal.  Co-created by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Carrie Beck, Star Wars Rebels takes the very best elements of the sci-fi phenomenon fans have come to love and developed a new chapter of weekly adventures of equal worth.  Returning viewers to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Rebels is an animated spectacle giving audiences young and old restored hope that the Force is very much back.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Star Wars Rebels with 1080p transfers, each bearing 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  On par with Disney’s respected animated releases, Star Wars Rebels greatly impresses with vibrant colors and nicely detailed textures while, black levels remain inky and pleasing throughout.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is audible and consistent, if not slightly underwhelming.  Meanwhile, action sequences with tried and true lightsaber sound effects and starship blasts along with the show’s Williams-esque music provides suitable boosts to the soundscape.  While not quite as impactful for such an adventurous show of its ilk, the mix is more than sufficient.  Located on Disc 1, special features include, Rebels Recon (36:10) providing behind the scenes insight into several episodes of the season and Sneak Peeks at Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1:52) and Aladdin Diamond Edition (1:19).  In addition, Disc 2’s supplements include, Rebels Recon (45:02) providing more in depth looks at the remaining episodes of the show’s debut season while, Rebels Infiltrates Star Wars Celebration (4:03) gives viewers a brief look at the events hosted this past year in Anaheim, CA in this Blu-ray exclusive featurette.  Furthermore, Star Wars Rebels: The Ultimate Guide (22:05), Rebels Season 2: A Look Ahead (7:06) and four promotional shorts - The Machine in the Ghost (3:02), Art Attack (3:02), Entanglement (3:02) and Property of Ezra Bridger (3:02) - round out the season’s bonus features.

    In Disney’s first attempts at restoring balance to the Force, Star Wars Rebels succeeds in delivering enthralling new tales centered around original characters that have quickly become fan favorites amongst Star Wars enthusiasts.  Matched with high-octane action and stellar animation, this prequel series has deservedly morphed into Disney XD’s must watch program.  Arriving with all 15 episodes of its inaugural season and a respectable batch of bonus features, Star Wars Rebels shines on Blu-ray proving the Force has indeed been awoken for the best.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Saturn 3 (1980) Blu-ray Review


    Saturn 3 (1980)
    Director: Stanley Donen
    Starring: Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas & Harvey Keitel
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Deep in the trenches of Saturn’s third moon, a sexy TV actress, Ned Land and a pony-tail sporting New Yorker that oddly sounds English are hard at work developing new food for a suffering Earth.  Director Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Lucky Lady) orchestrates this lower-budgeted, character driven sci-fi tale about what happens to humanity when a robot threatens your existence.  In the wake of Star Wars' success, endless attempts were made to cash in on the new allure of science fiction cinema.  From Flash Gordon to Galaxy of Terror, every studio couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a stab at a world amongst the stars.  Saturn 3 is one of 1980s answers to the demand for more sci-fi goodness.  After nearly 25 years since its original release, something is watching, waiting and wanting on Saturn 3, and we’re about to find out if it’s any good...

    Saturn 3 centers on Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett), two scientists stationed beneath the surface of Saturn’s third moon, Titan.  The couple are tasked with the duty of seeking new forms of food for an exhausted planet Earth.  When progress decreases, Benson (Harvey Keitel), along with his robot Hector, arrive to assist as an eclipse on Saturn cuts off communication with the rest of the solar system.  Unfortunately, Benson slowly turns sinister as Hector morphs into an uncontrollable killing machine with death in mind for “Adam” and Alex.

    MOVIE:
    Saturn 3 plays as a slow-burn of sorts that chooses to focus on the interactions between the small cast as opposed to a violent robot.  A bold move that can quickly turn viewers away that were expecting The Terminator in space.  Personally, the relationship between Douglas and Fawcett as well as their “purple elephant” age difference made Saturn 3 quite a unique watch.  At the ripe age of 64, Douglas hit the jackpot with this role that earned him nude scenes with the painfully gorgeous Fawcett who was still starring in the popular Charlie’s Angels television series.  The love between the two is sincere as they reside in their own private sector until Keitel’s Benson crashes the party.  The couple’s less than stellar results to replenish Earth’s food supply has Benson coming to improve progress.  Keitel, who was dubbed by Roy Dotrice (Amadeus), plays the role of a pill-popping Major as robotic and creepy.  One can only assume that Director Stanley Donen didn’t appreciate a good Brooklyn accent, but interestingly enough Dotrice’s voiceover is precise and effective.  Keitel’s descent into madness and attraction towards Fawcett is what rattles the cages of this film.  Questioning the enjoyment of an old body like Douglas‘ against Fawcett’s causes a fully nude Douglas to awkwardly mount Keitel in order to choke him.  Tensions reach an all-time high when Benson’s robot Hector goes haywire and decides to clean house of the humans.  The slow-pace of the film picks up slightly as Hector lops off Keitel’s hand and starts a cat and mouse session with the two lovebirds.  The suspense in the final act never reaches full potential but Hector’s demise is nicely captured in a sequence that took 3 days to shoot.  New to science-fiction, Director Stanley Donen choreographs the film competently and succeeds in developing the core cast and their interactions with one another.  The design of the space ships and sets look remarkable along with excellent usage of miniatures that tragically never seem to be as utilized in the CGI world we live in today.  Saturn 3 is no masterpiece but is certainly a sci-fi film at the height of the genre’s popularity that dared to be a little different.  At a time where there was good, bad and really bad, sci-fi flicks, Saturn 3 rests nicely somewhere in the middle as a fun way to kill 88 minutes.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Saturn 3 in a new high-definition 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks rich and sharp for a film of its time with black levels looking strong and colors, specifically in Adam and Alex’s control rooms, popping off the screen like the brightest Lite-Brite displays you will ever see.  A healthy presence of grain is intact which adds a wonderful filmic charm to this practically immaculate transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Saturn 3 comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that works its magic nicely.  Dialogue comes across with no distortion whatsoever while sound effects and the score provided by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron) rings loud and clear especially during scenes of heightened suspense.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also provided on the disc.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Interview with Voice Artist Roy Dotrice: Dotrice discusses his involvement in the project as well as working with Director Stanley Donen.  Dotrice is still unsure of why Keitel had to be dubbed as he found his performance adequate.

    - Interview with Special Effects Director Colin Chilvers: Chilvers sits down for a 15 minute interview and recalls with great detail the many practical effects he was tasked with creating for the film.  A very thorough and in depth look behind the movie magic.

    - Audio Commentary with Film Expert Greg Moss moderated by Dave Bradley: Moss, host of the Something is Wrong on Saturn 3 website, is the authority on the history of the film and along with moderator Bradley, the two make for an impressively detailed commentary.  No rock is left unturned and while there are certain dry spells, they are warranted considering how many interesting facts and anecdotes are expressed in just a few breaths.  If principal talent cannot be secured for a film commentary, this is exactly the kind of expert commentary one wants to hear.  You will walk away enlightened and with a deeper appreciation for Saturn 3.

    - Additional Scenes from the Network TV Version

    - Deleted Ecstasy Scene: This popular deleted scene is included that showcases Fawcett in a ridiculously sexy outfit.  Audio drops off midway through but that won’t disrupt your viewing pleasure.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Still Gallery

    - DVD copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Saturn 3 was a decent sci-fi romp that highlighted a small cast that each came from very different avenues of Tinseltown.  The set design and practical effects capture a wonderful charm that you can only access by seeing films of this ilk.  Scream Factory has given another niche title like Saturn 3 a splendid video and audio transfer along with an assortment of special features that educate and entertain fans that truly appreciate films like this.  Whether you love Saturn 3 or simply find it mediocre, Scream Factory’s edition is the definitive release for a film I imagine will grown in appreciation with each subsequent viewing.
    RATING: 4/5